Fertilizer Plant Explosion in West, Texas

The small town just north of Waco on IH-35 known mostly for its kolaches may be known for something else tonight, as reports are coming in from twitter that an explosion has taken place at a fertilizer plant there. Damage estimates so far can only be characterized as catastrophic.

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34 Total Updates since April 17, 2013
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  • Updates 27
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Criminal investigation launched following arrest

I didn't think this situation could get any worse than an explosion with massive damage and hundreds of casualties. If it turns out an EMT (or anyone) had something to do with starting the fire intentionally, I was wrong. Very wrong.

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HELP WEST: BU alum Phil Taylor fund-raises

You want to help? You want a dope T-shirt? Boy have I got a deal for you!

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Latest explosion investigation details

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West, TX Memorial Open Thread

With an incredibly inspiring processional now ending and thousands taking their seats inside the Ferrell Center, and the President of the United States en route from this morning's dedication of the Bush Center in Dallas, the memorial for first responders to the tragedy in West is set to begin in just a few minutes.

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Program for today's memorial service

Remember, this service will be streamed live online by Baylor in case you aren't close enough to a TV to watch. I linked it in an earlier update.

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What it's all about (picture).

Another, more clear view. Click to embiggen.

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The Purpose of Today

In just a few short hours, Baylor and Waco will welcome numerous dignitaries, including President Barack Obama, to campus for the memorial services in the Ferrell Center. Those services are intended to honor the first responders to the explosion in West, Texas last week that has now claimed the lives of at least 15 people.

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Thursday's West Memorial to be streamed live

Were I a betting man, and I am, I'd bet more than one cable news network will broadcast the event live, but should you want to watch it without having to deal with talking heads or commercial breaks, Baylor wills tream the ceremony live online. Pretty big step for a mostly anti-technology Baylor.

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President Obama to attend West memorial at Baylor

That memorial service will be held in Baylor's Ferrell Center at 2 PM on Thursday afternoon. This will be the President's first trip to Baylor and Waco. He will join Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford, Reagan, and Bush (43) as sitting Presidents Baylor has welcomed to campus.

You should go.

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First responder memorial on Thursday in Waco

Fairly certain those ingrates from Westboro Baptist are planning on being there, and I have just one piece of advice: do not engage them. Their organization survives based on the "charity" of others sued for assaulting/harassing them, so if you engage them, you are both A) convincing them of the rightness of their cause, and B) putting yourself at risk of a lawsuit. If they show up, and that's a legitimate question given that they like to talk a bigger game than they have, ignore them.
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4.20.2013 Weekend Update

A lot on the plate this Saturday morning, so let's dive right in. We'll kick off with strictly Baylor news before moving to the latest from West.

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Slideshow images from West, Texas explosion

That's from today and yesterday.

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West, Texas Mayor says 35 fatalities confirmed

I had an update from about two hours ago where the Mayor was supposed to actually move his estimate of confirmed casualties downward, but apparently that report was inaccurate. It's possible he was just talking about fatalities among first responders, the number of which is now supposed to be about ten. USA Today started running a story around that time earlier tonight with the 35 number, and that is the current estimated death toll based on the most up-to-date information. All we can hope is that the number does not rise further.

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#DiaDelWest

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Texas Rangers announce relief initiatives

The Texas Rangers baseball club has announced the start of several relief initiatives designed to help the victims of fire and explosion in West, Texas. Among those initiatives is the collection of goods, food, and gift cards at all of this weekend's games against the Seattle Mariners, as well as a partnership with Carter Bloodcare to host a blood drive this coming Sunday. Bravo, Rangers, for helping out!

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McLennan County declared "disaster area"

Federal assistance is already on the ground, obviously, but this allows agencies like FEMA to lend their expertise and, more importantly, their funds, to the relief effort.

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AP photos of devastation in West

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The DailyMail isn't exactly the best source for most news, but these photos are taken from the AP's photofeed are they have compiled the best collection I've seen anywhere. The devastation in West is just incredible.


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West, Texas 8:15 AM Press Conference

Waco PD PIO William Swanton is holding another press conference at the moment: Governor Perry will be doing a press conference at the DPS HQ in Austin, Texas at 11:45 this morning. Perry will release all information they have this morning about the state's involvement in the case.

There was a search and rescue briefing conducted this morning by numerous state and local agencies at 7 AM to update the Obama Administration and state authorities with the latest information.

Weather is a factor due to the dropping temperatures and the rain. Beginning to affect the search and rescue operations, but also helping to keep fires under control. Those fires are not yet contained but are also not nearly so dangerous as before. Small amount of looting this morning, so they are stepping up efforts to secure the West area. Too big to have done it in the night.

No new numbers to give, but there are firefighters missing. There is a firefighter/law enforcement person that was missing beforehand that has now been found. He is in a local hospital with serious injuries. Swanton believes there are 3-4 firefighters still missing.

Search and rescue continues now that the Sun has come up and there is more light available. Swanton doesn't have a number of how many have been rescued or how many bodies have been found. He's now fielding a question about Turkish nationalities and I have no reason why. Now he's talking about the camaraderie of the city of West and the way those people will respond to help each other, in addition to the exterior groups there to make sure nobody is out in the cold.

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It's fairly incredible how many actual journalists (which I am not) have yet to take any time off from last night. I had to go to bed because I was exhausted, but now I'm seeing that they have not. People like this:

He's been all over this from the very beginning, so throw him a follow if you're on twitter. So has...

Same thing.

According to KWTX, the latest estimate of fatalities is between 5 and 15. Let's pray it is that low.

Update (9:04 AM CST):

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Due to overwhelming support, we may ask to schedule your appt. in the days or weeks to come, to support recovery of all ongoing needs.</p>&mdash; Carter BloodCare (@CarterBloodCare) <a href="https://twitter.com/CarterBloodCare/status/324869637932212224">April 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

-Prashanth

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>"All that community is gone" @<a href="https://twitter.com/wacopolice">wacopolice</a> referring to <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23West">#West</a> due to the <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23WestExplosion">#WestExplosion</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23KWTXAM">#KWTXAM</a></p>&mdash; Taina Maya (@TainaMayaKWTX) <a href="https://twitter.com/TainaMayaKWTX/status/324875428349231105">April 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>The State is responding to <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23WestExplosion">#WestExplosion</a> We'll hear from @<a href="https://twitter.com/governorperry">governorperry</a> on specific emergency response efforts at 11:45am</p>&mdash; Jessica Vess (@JessicaV_KVUE) <a href="https://twitter.com/JessicaV_KVUE/status/324872254213214208">April 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families.</p>&mdash; Pope Francis (@Pontifex) <a href="https://twitter.com/Pontifex/status/324814961572446209">April 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

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Morning Update: Taking Stock in West, TX

You can watch the Livestream of the Waco PD Sgt. Patrick Swanson Morning press conference here. The focus is now on the search for survivors. There is an unknown number of people still trapped in the rubble.

Quick notes from the press conference:

  • They are approaching this as a Search and Rescue. Main efforts focused on going door to door. NO numbers.
  • There have been some reports of looting [really, people? really?], so law enforcement is taking to ensure that the property of West citizens who have been evacuated is safe.
  • Not going to let press in yet because of safety concerns about controlled, yet still burning, fires
  • There are no new numbers, but there are firefighters still missing. One of the missing firefighters has been found; he is in the hospital with serious injuries.
  • No word on the cause of the fire. Texas ATF is on site.
  • He estimates that there were 300-400 people who came to West in an official capacity (police, medical, etc.)
  • Red Cross is on the scene and the community has really come together. This is a tight-knit, family-oriented town. "I can promise you that no West citizen is going to let anybody be stuck out in the rain."
  • There are grief counselors located at the High School.
  • Businesses and restaurants in Waco have been shipping supplies in overnight.There is not currently a need for supplies.
  • They are not going to call in the National Guard, though they have been in contact with them. There is currently enough of a police presence on site, though that may change when they need to be relieved. They have also been in contact with the Governor's office.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>"All that community is gone" @<a href="https://twitter.com/wacopolice">wacopolice</a> referring to <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23West">#West</a> due to the <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23WestExplosion">#WestExplosion</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23KWTXAM">#KWTXAM</a></p>&mdash; Taina Maya (@TainaMayaKWTX) <a href="https://twitter.com/TainaMayaKWTX/status/324875428349231105">April 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>The State is responding to <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23WestExplosion">#WestExplosion</a> We'll hear from @<a href="https://twitter.com/governorperry">governorperry</a> on specific emergency response efforts at 11:45am</p>&mdash; Jessica Vess (@JessicaV_KVUE) <a href="https://twitter.com/JessicaV_KVUE/status/324872254213214208">April 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Please join me in praying for the victims of the explosion in Texas and their families.</p>&mdash; Pope Francis (@Pontifex) <a href="https://twitter.com/Pontifex/status/324814961572446209">April 18, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

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2:15 AM Press Conference Highlights

This is going to be quick and dirty. I'm just taking notes. The speaker is William Patrick Swanton-- Public Information Officer for Waco PD and the City of Waco. Brought in to assist and speak for the West EMS and disaster relief efforts. He's got this thing under control. Obviously a pro.

7:00 -- fire started at West Fertilizer in downtown West. Firefighters responded at that time. Fire intensified. Evacuations began before explosion took place.
7:50 -- explosion took place fifty minutes after initial response.

"Quite a bit of devastation in that area." Victims in homes, nursing home, and apartment complex. Waco and McLennan County began responding when West asked, along with area EMS and disaster response services. Wounded taken to Abbott HS for triage. Extreme devastation in homes, with people still being removed from homes and businesses at this time. Waco Hillcrest and Providence are the primary hospitals in the area, with Hillcrest serving as the primary trauma center. Evacuations continue at this time.

Firefighters and possibly one law enforcement officer may be unaccounted for at this time. No hard number of fatalities. People are still being removed from homes and buildings. Number of fatalities will probably rise through the night as more areas are fully searched. Tremendous outpouring of support from community, including the surrounding areas. West is a very tightly-knit community that appreciates the support. McLennan County has responded, along with other counties in Central Texas and places as far away as Austin and Dallas.

Law enforcement command center set up, along with incident response center. Swanton was brought in to help coordinate the information from several groups.

Small contingent of firefighters returned to the facility because of concern over a secondary explosion, which they do not believe is a threat any longer. Some firefighters are confirmed missing, number unknown.

Reported that a helicopter on the scene sustained some kind of damage, not confirmed.

Genesis of the fire unknown at this point, whether arson-related or some kind of accident. Analysis in progress of the chemicals in the air and the potential for a wind shift to cause those chemicals to change path. Air quality is a concern at this point.

Closed by asking media not to leave the designated area for their own personal safety.

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I'm headed to bed soon, so there may not be any more updates unless they happen in the next few minutes.

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Injury numbers as of 1:45 AM CST

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UPDATED: Help for West

How you can help with the tragedy that occurred in West, TX last night.

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The Baylor community responds...

Baylor University has set up a page off the main Baylor.edu website where it will place all information related to the situation developing tonight in West. The first update to that page states the following:

To the campus community:

The explosions tonight in West have shocked and saddened us all. We are eager to be of assistance.

Baylor is a cooperating organization with the McLennan County Office of Emergency Management, and we are prepared to provide services to those affected by this emergency. We remain in contact with emergency responders from the County, and also with local emergency response organizations. We will notify the campus community of any forthcoming requests for University assistance.

Local hospitals tonight have publicly identified the need for blood donations tomorrow. Please check with agencies if you wish to donate blood.

We continue in prayer this evening for all those impacted by this crisis, including those within the Baylor family.

Baylor University has set up a website at www.baylor.edu/relief to provide more information about how the Baylor community can assist our friends and neighbors in West.

Also, tonight at midnight, Baylor students held an impromptu prayer meeting in front of Waco Hall on-campus.

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Authorities confirm fatalities, injuries in 100s

In a press conference just a few minutes ago, an official for the Texas Department of Public Safety, Trooper DL Wilson, reported that the scene in West, Texas following the fertilizer plant explosion is "just like" the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. He also compared what he's seen to that in Iraq, asa well. Among the highlights of his press conference:

  • 50-75 houses damage
  • 50 units damaged in apartments
  • 133 people evacuated from a nursing home
  • At least 100 people injured and transported to local hospitals
  • Some confirmed fatalities, number unknown, likely to be updated in the morning at 6 AM.
  • The area has been evacuated due to ammonia fumes, if the winds shift, they will be evacuated even further.

West's Mayor has also apparently indicated that between 5 and 7 first responders to the fire, before the explosion, are now unaccounted for. They are presumably among the fatalities that have been confirmed thus far.

UPDATE: The CEO of Hillcrest hospital in Waco has confirmed that they have treated more than 100 injuries in their hospital alone.

Also...

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Video #2 of fire/explosion aftermath in West, TX


I APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE FOR SOME OF THE LANGUAGE!

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Hillcrest CEO appeals for blood donations

This is something you can do, Baylor students. Do it tomorrow. It costs you nothing.

Update (11:30 PM CST) :

KWTX News 10 6 minutes ago near Waco, TX
Carter Blood Care is asking for blood donation at the local Waco donor center starting at 9am or at Providence Hospital Blood Drive from 11am - 5pm.

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Casualty reports unknown, coming soon

That's the latest word from the officials on the ground. Earlier, we heard this:

There haven't been any deaths reported at Waco Hillcrest, but it's still early. These numbers could be vastly inflated or too low. We saw it just a few days ago with the Boston Marathon bombing.

Article: http://www.kwtx.com/home/headlines/Explosion-Injuries-Reported-At-West-Fertilizer-Plant-203505331.html

Update:

You can watch a live feed of CBS coverage online here.

They have asked the town of West to evacuate, preferably to the South, due to concerns of ammonia fumes.

If you would like to help, please do not attempt to drive to the area. Leave the highway open for emergency personnel. A better way to help is to give blood at your local blood bank. Unfortunately, it looks like the region is going to need it.

-Prashanth

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West, Texas now being completely evacuated

I'll use this update to put info for places people can go. There is apparently an intact fertilizer tank at the plant very near to large fires. Authorities are afraid that tank may also explode.

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Video of the West, Texas explosion


This one is not for the faint of heart, and be warned, there is brief language at the very end.

UPDATE: Live video from NBC5 in Dallas on the ground. Latest report is that they've called in dozens of emergency vehicles from central and north Texas, and the people of West are being asked to evacuate.

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4 block area of houses "blown apart"

Update (9:48 PM CST):

KWTX News 10 3 minutes ago

Rusty Garrett says expect 25-30 MPH winds all night long. This will make fumes hard to fight according to Rusty. -Yvonne, Content Producer.

CNN now has a feed going.

-Prashanth

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Explosion in West, Texas

The small town just north of Waco on IH-35 known mostly for its kolaches may be known for something else tonight, as reports are coming in from twitter that an explosion has taken place at a fertilizer plant there. Damage estimates so far can only be characterized as catastrophic.

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